A nice, eye-catching wine fridge is a perfect addition to your living room, where you can show off your precious wine collection and turn it into a conversation piece at your parties. It allows you to keep your wine safely and let it age gracefully. But why are wine fridges so expensive?
Wine fridges are expensive as they’re specifically made to store wine according to its peculiar requirements. They provide the exact temperature and humidity that wine needs for storage. They also minimize noise and vibration to prevent wine from going bad and don’t let UV radiations get inside.
Read on to get more information about the features that make wine fridges more expensive than regular fridges. We’ll also provide tips on how you can reduce maintenance and initial costs and what to consider before buying a wine fridge.
There Aren’t Many Manufacturers of Wine Fridges
One of the biggest reasons for the high prices of wine fridges is that there aren’t as many manufacturers as regular fridges. So, the number of these fridges on the market is limited, making them sort of a luxury item.
This small niche can also explain why wine fridges are lower quality than regular fridges and don’t last as long. The limited competition tempts manufacturers to not care about quality, improve their products, or even offer competitive prices.
Wine Fridges Are Different From Regular Fridges
If you want to become a dedicated wine collector, it may be obvious to you that a wine fridge is the best choice to make, no matter the cost.
But if you don’t want to keep your wine bottles for more than five days, you may think a wine fridge isn’t worth it, and you can make do with your regular fridge. But a wine fridge is different from a regular fridge in the following ways:
Wine needs a different storage temperature than other foods and beverages. While the optimal temperature for keeping other foods is below 40°F (4°C), wine needs a higher temperature, between 45°F and 65°F (7-18°C). The golden degree is 55°F (12°C), which helps the wine preserve its flavors and prevent premature aging.
On the other hand, if you keep your wine in a regular fridge, the temperature will go below the golden degree. These low temperatures don’t allow the wine to mature and develop its aromas and flavors as expected.
This temperature should also be consistent, and fluctuation may change the flavor and aroma of your wine. Plus, they make the corks crack or push out due to the expansions or contractions of the wine inside the bottle.
In addition to the technology necessary for any cooling system, wine fridges feature a special chilling zone where you can keep your wine for rapid cooling. Some even have dual cooling zones for white and red wine. Each of these zones creates the ideal temperature for each of these varieties.
The same goes for humidity. While humidity doesn’t affect properly stored and bottled wine, it can dry the corks, let air in, and spoil the wine.
If you keep your wine in a food fridge, the odors from other food will seep in, overpowering the rich aromas and flavors of your delicate wine. A wine fridge keeps humidity at optimum levels of 50%, something you can’t achieve either regular fridges or a wine cellar.
Plus, a wine fridge allows you to lie the bottles on the shelves, keeping corks moisturized. That’s not something you do with a regular fridge because there’s no or little dedicated room for wine bottles. So, if you’re a wine collector, you need lots of shelves to keep your bottles. Plus, regular fridges aren’t humidity-friendly and keep humidity levels at zero.
Another vital factor in storing wine is vibration. Many wine enthusiasts believe that constant shaking and vibrations can cause wine particles to move about, creating chemical reactions. In addition, if the vibration is strong enough, it can prevent the sediment from settling, constantly mixing with the wine and making the taste go bad.
Using technology that minimizes these vibrations can be costly, adding to the overall price of a wine fridge. They use thermoelectric coolers, which are super quiet and efficient and make the least amount of vibration.
Compressor units are similar to regular fridges, which make lower temperatures but aren’t as quiet. Most wine fridges have built-in technology to absorb these vibrations and keep noise and vibration to a minimum.
If you wish to store your precious wine for an extended period, making it properly age over time, you need to keep it away from light. The UV radiations can ruin the taste and texture of wine by damaging its tannin content, making it age prematurely. That’s why many wine producers sell their wine in colored glass bottles.
However, these green bottles can’t protect wine from UV rays, and bottles need anti-UV coating to provide full protection. The downside is these glasses are expensive to mass-produce.
So, wine fridges have taken on this responsibility and come with UV-coated glasses to make sure light doesn’t affect the taste of wine. These glass doors allow you to see the fridge’s content without opening the doors, minimizing the degree of UV exposure from outside light sources. They also come with LED lighting but without UV radiations to prevent damage to the wine.
Wine fridges come in different designs, some of which can increase the costs. You can choose among glass doors with UV protection, stainless steel doors, customizable racks, and different colors.
They also come in free-standing, portable, and built-in forms with different rack numbers and arrangements, making the prices vary widely.
How To Reduce Costs of Wine Fridges
Wine fridges don’t incur much maintenance costs, especially if you get a high-quality make. The only cost they have is the electricity which isn’t much as they’re energy-efficient. While a regular fridge uses between 300 to 800 watts of electricity, a wine fridge uses an average of 100 watts.
Running a wine cooler costs an average of $3-$10 per month, depending on its size, age, and technology. Thermoelectric models cost much less than compressor models in terms of electricity consumption. While an A++ thermoelectric model generates an average of $35-$40 a year on electricity bills, this number is around $110 for an A++ compressor unit.
But it also depends on the size of the fridge and the ambient temperature. Plus, since a thermoelectric wine fridge has to be running all the time, it may incur more costs than the compressor type, which only turns on when necessary.
However, some factors make running your wine fridge expensive. These factors all affect the amount of electricity your fridge consumes, so you can minimize electricity costs by spending energy mindfully.
Get the Right Cooling Technology
As mentioned earlier, the cooling systems used in wine fridges can be thermoelectric or compressors. While each has its own advantages and disadvantages, they have different functionalities and are suitable for different conditions.
For example, thermoelectric fridges can’t make your wine cooler than the ambient temperature for more than 20 degrees. That means you can’t use this type of technology for extremely hot conditions.
In addition, these units use a fan system that sends out hot air from the inside of the fridge while keeping the outside hot air from getting inside. This simple technology only works for a small number of wine bottles and will be inefficient if you have a large collection. So, getting a large thermoelectric unit will be more expensive to run.
On the other hand, if you don’t plan to keep more than 20 bottles, it’s better to avoid compressor fridges. Although they’re more energy-efficient than thermoelectric fridges, it’s only the case for large collections.
Buy the Right Number of Fridges
If you’ve just started collecting wine, you may not have a clear idea of how big a fridge you may need. You might also think that getting a small fridge is more cost-efficient, and you can increase the number of fridges down the road. But getting a large fridge can be a better investment than getting multiple small fridges.
When you get several small fridges, you’ll pay more for electricity, and you need more room and more outlets.
The only case when buying multiple fridges is logical is when you consider long-term storage. When you keep wine for a long time, it’s better to have a separate fridge for those bottles and one for serving bottles. That’s because when you open and close the fridge frequently, you’ll reduce their efficiency and affect the wine’s lifespan.
Find the Right Placement for the Fridge
Both types of wine fridges, thermoelectric and compressor, produce heat to generate the energy they need to cool down the inside space. So, you shouldn’t place them near a wall as it doesn’t allow the hot air to escape through the rear side of the fridge.
When the refrigerator can’t vent out the hot air, it has to work harder to ensure the cooling system works properly. So, always keep the fridge at a sufficient distance from the wall and in a room with proper ventilation.
Is a Wine Fridge Worth the Cost?
If you’re an avid wine collector, you must invest in a wine fridge.
A wine fridge is worth the cost because of its advantages over any regular fridge, such as controlled and consistent temperature, humidity, vibration, and noise. Additionally, it’s worth it compared to the amount of wine that spoils and gets thrown away due to improper storage.
Since wine has specific storage needs, it requires specific storage facilities, too. Although it may be a big initial investment, it pays off down the road when you can keep your wine for an extended period.
You can’t keep the wine in a regular fridge for too long because of the constant temperature and light changes and vibrations, especially because the door gets opened and closed repeatedly.
As for the maintenance costs, you can keep the electricity costs lower, although they’re largely energy-efficient. For example, you can keep the fridge in a cool and dark place and away from the walls and confined space. Plus, avoid opening and closing the door constantly and only access the fridge when you need it.
You may also think about turning your garage into a wine cave by insulating the walls and looking for a cooling system. However, you need to hire professionals to insulate the walls for you, which may be more expensive than a wine fridge.
The cooling device, such as an AC, can also be costly, even as much as the whole unit. So, constructing a wine cellar can cost you thousands of dollars even if you do all the construction.
However, if you don’t collect wine and drink any purchased wine within five days, you don’t need to make a big investment. In this case, keeping your wine in a regular refrigerator and even at room temperature will do.
Average Price of Wine Fridges
It’s a known fact that getting a wine fridge may break the bank as they’re not the least expensive house appliance. However, it doesn’t mean you can’t get a decent wine fridge at a reasonable price. Depending on the size, type, and make of the wine fridge, the price varies widely.
Here’s a breakdown of prices based on the above factors:
Free-Standing Wine Fridges
You can find free-standing fridges with a wide range of sizes and capacities, ranging from as little as four bottles to more than 100 bottles. If you’re a residential user, you don’t need a capacity of more than 40 bottles.
They can feature single- or dual-temperature zones, which make the prices different. You can find a low-end single-zone unit at around $170, with the price ranging from $200 to $600.
For example, this COOKPAD Wine Cooler Refrigerator (available on Amazon.com), an 18-bottle free-standing fridge, is at the lower end of this price range.
On the other hand, dual-zone fridges can be more expensive, costing between $400 and over $1000. The 29 bottles Phiestina Dual Zone Wine Cooler Refrigerator (available on Amazon.com) is a perfect choice featuring digital memory temperature control and high energy efficiency.
Built-In Wine Fridges
Built-in wine fridges can be more expensive because they offer more flexibility as you can put them under the counter. They save you lots of space, are aesthetically pleasing, and can be custom-made. But since they have a higher capacity than free-standing units, they can be more expensive.
A built-in wine fridge costs between $400 and over $1000, with an average fridge costing around the neighborhood of $600. And these prices also depend on whether the unit is single- or dual-zone. Some of them can be both free-standing and built-in, provided that they match your space.
Check out the Phiestina 29-bottle compressor fridge that you can use as a free-standing and built-in unit. This dual-zone fridge features a reversible door hinge to fit the physical conditions of your room.
Compressor Wine Fridges
As mentioned earlier, compressor wine fridges and regular food fridges have the same technology. They only turn on when they need to. That’s why they’re more expensive than thermoelectric fridges.
These units come in a wide array of sizes, models, and prices, ranging from 4- to 100-bottle capacities. You can find units with eight bottles of capacity for around $200 and $500, which is a good price for fridges of 50 bottles capacity. Larger units can cost more than $1000 but aren’t necessary for average homeowners.
A good-priced option is this COOKPAD 16 Bottle Compressor Wine Cooler Refrigerator (available on Amazon.com), which comes in three capacities of 12-, 16-, and 18-bottles. It comes with smart temperature control and double-layer glass protection, protecting your wine from UV radiation.
Thermoelectric Wine Fridges
As mentioned earlier, thermoelectric wine fridges are quiet and generate less vibration than their compressor counterparts. Plus, they’re more energy-efficient and eco-friendly because they don’t use harmful CFC gas. That said, they’re less efficient in maintaining a constant temperature range and aren’t suitable for hotter areas.
But one of the biggest advantages of thermoelectric units is their reasonable price. If you’re low on budget and live in a cool area, you can buy one of these units at a low cost. A thermoelectric fridge can cost between $150 and $400. But you may need to spend more on high-end, dual-zone units.
This Koolatron Urban Series 18 Bottle Dual Zone Wine Cooler (available on Amazon.com) is a good option, and it has an internal LED light and a digital display. The mirrored glass door has UV protection, and the soft interior lighting doesn’t damage the wine inside.
Features To Consider When Buying a Wine Fridge
Now that you know the average price of each type of wine fridge, you may want to know what features to consider before purchasing one. As mentioned earlier, you should shop around and compare all attractive options to choose the best fridge that fits your needs and budget.
Here’s what you should know while picking a wine fridge.
Countertop vs. Built-In
The choice between the countertop and built-in fridges depends on your space. For limited floor space, a countertop fridge will be a better choice for you. However, it may limit you in terms of the bottle size, as keeping a large unit on your counter may turn into an eyesore in your kitchen.
If you want a large unit with a high bottle capacity, you could go for a free-standing unit and keep it in another part of your house.
If you have enough space under the counter to fit a wine fridge into, you can save lots of space. However, it can be pricier as you may need to have it custom-built. In addition, since the ventilation becomes a problem, it may need a more specialized design, further adding to the prices.
One of the most important things to consider is where you’ll place your wine fridge. Although wine fridges aren’t that noisy, they’re not dead quiet. So, your wine fridge may be a nuisance if you keep it close to your living areas, such as in your living room.
If you install it in the kitchen, keep it away from windows and the oven since heat and light can be detrimental to the fridge and the wines inside. The garage and the attic are typically not suitable places because of the extreme temperature and humidity fluctuations. Wherever you place your fridge, make sure it has enough air circulation.
Type of Drinks
Despite the name, you can keep more than wine in your wine fridge. For example, some fridges can store beer and champagne, too. If you want to use your fridge for keeping these drinks, check if the shelves are wide enough to accommodate these bottles.
Even if you don’t store these drinks in your wine fridge, it’s always a good idea to make sure the shelves are spacious enough and fit your bottle types.
Wine fridge shelves can be made of metal or wood, and wooden shelves are better than metal ones. That’s because metal shelves create more vibration, scratch the bottles and labels, and aren’t smooth enough to pull out the bottles easily.
On the other hand, wooden shelves are easier to use and produce less vibration. However, wood is thicker than metal and can reduce your storage space. If you choose wooden shelves, make sure they have a proper sliding mechanism.
Some wine fridges allow you to store each bottle individually, while others offer bulk storage of bottles by putting them on top of each other. While they can help you store more bottles, it’s more difficult to access them, and they’re more susceptible to breaking and scratching.
Although individual storage reduces capacity, it’s safer and reduces the chances of accidents.